Guest Blog : Got it Grisly if You Want It (A Tribute to Eerie Publications) by James Goodridge

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Got it Grisly if You Want It
(A Tribute to Eerie Publications)

by James Goodridge

Fall 1973, my cousin David and I are down on Westchester Ave in the East Bronx at our favorite candy store/news stand to buy comics. The times they are a changing so is the neighborhood.  Chestnut brown and beige tone children and teens, yet the store owner is dedicated to getting our generation our fill of pulp fun and sugary confections. I buy my majority Marvel and minority DC comic titles, a dollar taking you a long way back then and we say these days I was good. But my cousin David being the oddball he tended to back then ( He’s in real estate in D.C. these days) pulls a copy of Terror Tales off the rack. A black and white magazine-sized comic in the tradition of EC, just the cover in vivid color alone would gross most adults and kids out including me. Blood dripping font, ghouls, vampires, headless torsos etc… I start to berate cuz, because of my “Make Mine Marvel” dogma but change my mind since I got my pulp fix, plus his mom Annette will if anything will throw it in the trash, but I can’t help looking at the grotesque cover.terror-tales

Terror Tales was one of (including a gangster magazine) eleven anthology format titles wonderfully published by Eerie Publications (EP) based in New York from 1966 to 1981 fighting the good fight against Warren publications the industry/genre leader with its Creepy, Warren, Vampirella and Eerie titles. With the concept of out grisly and Warren, ttEerie founders Myron Fass, Stanley Harris and the mysterious Mel Lenny used pre-code reprints from the Iger Shop an indie supplier of comic work, a lot of it minus writer and artist credits to Ajax comics in the 1950’s. Mixed in with new artwork by Dick Ayers, Chic Stone, Ezra Jackson, Irving Fass and Myron Fass.The first run price 35 cents that went up to 50 cents. These black and whites had a film noir look to them, which was in contrast to the Warren titles groovy, sexy and puberty provocative 60’s and 70’s gothic swagger. Upscaled gore versus hardcore gore for those not into superheroes, was what separated the two print houses EP being of the latter term. An office rumble between Fass and Harris changed the direction of the horror pulp wars (Archie comics and Marvel tried to gain a foot hold, but failed) with Harris forming Harris Publications and taking over some of the Warren titles such as Vampirella.

In 1981, EP shut down for good, later achieving cult status and rebirth in reprints, I myself had moved on to Heavy Metal magazine by the 80’s. But as you age you look for sparks from the past, especially in the uncharted waters we seem to be in now. Funny how horror can be a comfort sometimes. I ordered Terror Tales issue #7 reprint. Opening the parcel I gave it a zombie salute (moan)Eerie Publications bloody, tendon showing, brain eating grisly if you what it. You got to love it. deaddemons1

 

 

Sources: Eerie Publications: Comix from Hell, www. FictionHousePress.com

Guest Blog : Black Zombie: Hollywood and the 80’s Voodoo Revival by J. Malcom Stewart

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Black Zombie: Hollywood and the 80’s Voodoo Revival

In the beginning, there was the Zoumbie.

What began as a mixture of the ancient spirituality, chemical sciences and social control practices of West and Central Africa ended up stranded in the former home of the Arawak and the Carib by way of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Just as water wears down stone, what started as historical reality became whittled into mythology. And where there were deep roots, the stalk that grew from that dark, fertile soil became forever altered by the gaze of the European Other.

The legendary flesh-and-blood inspiration for the modern cinematic motif arose and walked through the jungles of Haiti and other Caribbean islands in those days, allegedly bringing terror and destruction to those not wise enough to avoid the paths of voodoo, the false cognate for the misunderstood, syncretic systems of religion alternatively called Vodou, Vodun, Vaudou or Santeria.

So, naturally, someone had to make a movie about it.

In 1932, Hollywood came a’ knocking and our beloved Zoumbie left his sun kissed isle to star alongside Bela Lugosi in the black-and-white Golden Age horror classic, White Zombie. A title truly intentional in its contradiction as Lugosi plays a white Haitian landowner who discovers from his black peonage the secret of Zoumbie creation through a process of hypnosis and drugs.

Lugosi then, of course, uses his powers to cement his control over the black populace while subsequently terrorizing his white neighbors, kidnapping a visiting American co-ed and daring her beau to brave the terrors of his plantation to save her.

The strange, occult powers of his character are almost of secondary concern to our heroes given his over-familiarity with the way of “natives,” causing the boyfriend character to exclaim that if the damsel-in-distress were to accidentally fall into the hands of the black workers “it would be a fate worse than could be imagined!” His comrade-in-arms admonishes him strongly not to even consider such a horror.

Never fear… The movie going audience of 1932 was spared the threat of racial miscegenation when the aforementioned boyfriend confronts Lugosi and breaks the spell of the Zombie. All was again right in the world. Except it started a bit of a craze for more cinematic distortion of the Zoumbie tradition, the biggest of which was the mispronounced cultural appropriation of the Zoumbie name.

For a while, our hero held sway in the imagination of filmmakers wanting to explore the field of culturally incorrect exotica. He had regular work in those days, showing up in such forgotten gems as I Walked with a Zombie (1943) Voodoo Man (1944) and the Plague of the Zombies (1966).

Then came George Romero. And like a lot things in the 60’s, there was a changing of the guard.

With Night of the Living Dead, the (pseudo) Scientific Zombie became the king of the block and our hero was forced back into semi-obscurity, through perhaps Romero gave a slight nod of sympathy by casting Duane Jones as a protagonist who shared some heritage with our ancient hero. But mostly, the original item ended sitting around the house, downing bottle-after-bottle of Red Stripe, waiting for his next close up.

Thankfully for him, the 80’s came along. And with it, a “real-life” novel length account from Harvard researcher Wade Davis called The Serpent and the Rainbow. Davis’ book, presented as his actual experiences with so-called “zombie masters” in Haiti during the final years of the Duvalier dictatorship. And with its publication came the most pointed scholarly disagreement among anthropologists since Carlos Castaneda’s “Don Juan” thesis that stole the 70’s.

How could it not help but start a new, focused sensation about the Zoumbie and the Voodoo system?

First up in March of 1987 was Angel Heart. The all-star cast of Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro and Lisa Bonet was steeped in both anticipation and controversy. It brought together two of the most respected “Method” actors of the era, one of whom (DeNiro) had already won his Oscar and the other (Rourke) was an odds-on favorite to be the next “great American actor.” It also was greeted with tabloid buzz as Bonet was on thin ice with her TV dad and employer, Bill Cosby, due to the erotic nature of the film. Angel Heart was nearly slapped with the emerging NC-17 rating before some compromising cuts were made.

The film itself was an atmospheric exploration of the “Hoodoo” belief system, a American near cousin to Voudon and Santeria. The Hoodoo concept and practice, prevalent in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas, sets the background for the New Orleans location for Angel Heart, as Rourke is a noir-cut detective tasked with finding a semi-famous singer who doesn’t want to be found. The set up, while simple sounding, is a complete misdirection for twists and turns, including bizarre symbolism, weird sex and DeNiro as a Brill Cream infused version of the Devil.

The film, which got a fairly favorable critical reception, was less than a box office sensation, perhaps weighed down by all the expectations of fireworks between Rourke and DeNiro and the gossipy infighting over Bonet’s role. Angel Heart has grown in prominence in the decades since, with many fans citing it as a conversation piece for unconventional horror. However, the really frightening thing maybe what happened to Rourke and Bonet’s careers after the film.

Hot on the heels of Angel Heart came The Believers. The May 1987 Martin Sheen vehicle attempted to explore the dangerous side of Santeria, the Spanish Speaking cousin of Vodun, as Sheen plays a skeptical psychologist who is drawn into the world of Caribbean mysticism when his son is threatened by a group of evil Santeru.

While The Believers brought some big budget production values to the subject, the script and direction fell back into some dominant culture stereotypes as the ultimate group of villains revealed had only a flimsy link to the actual Santeria tradition. Apparently, Hollywood hadn’t found much new material for practitioners of African traditional spiritualism in the intervening 55 years between it and White Zombie.

Fortunately for traditional zombie fans, the next year of 1988 contained a much more positive development as one of the decade’s legendary “Three C’s” took on adapting Wade Davis’ book. Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow brought the spotlight back to the place where it all began for our beloved friend, Haiti

Released in Feb. 1988, Serpent took advantage of Hollywood’s renewed interest in voodoo. Craven, then at the height of his powers and popularity, dove into the trend by giving us the most “naturalistic” Hollywood zombie movie to that date.
Set on the island in the early 1980’s, our hero (played by Bill Pullman) is a biologist/ anthropologist /chemist (the script is never sure which) who comes to the island nation in order to find the ancient, narcotic powder used by voodoo masters to put their victims into a state of living death.

For Pullman’s trouble, he is kicked, beaten, buried alive and has a nail driven through his scrotum. But for his tribulations, he manages to do something thought impossible. Bring the undead back to life a second time.

Shot on location around Hispaniola in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Serpent still stands as a glorious, although slower-paced, exploration of the Haitian “voodoo” culture. The film takes considerable time to explain the theology and worldview of the Zombie Makers while also delving into the culture and politics of the proud yet troubled nation.

Freaky undead doings abound, making for some killer scenes. Zombie hands in pea soup, crazy chicks eating glass, a corpse-bride with a python tongue The topper of an undead Paul Garfield pulling off his own head to throw it at a freshly returned Bill Pullman was one of my personal favorite horror moments of the 80’ . And while it wasn’t a big hit for Craven, it’s remembered fondly by many fans as one of his most unique films, despite its over-the-top ending.

Despite the flurry of interest at the end of the Reagan years, Hollywood quickly returned to the modern Zombie model, pushing out the Romero clones with frightening efficiency during  the last 30 years. There haven’t been a ton of films Hollywood exploring the flavors of the voodoo belief (2005’s The Skeleton Key comes to mind), but that’s not to say our hero’s time won’t come again.

In 2017, you can’t go anywhere in the horror genre without finding a Romero style cliche showing it.

 

Guest Blog: Why African American Authors Shouldn’t Read HP Lovecraft by Jeff Carroll

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Why African American Writers Should Not Read HP Lovecraft

by Jeff Carroll

Amidst the debates around diversity in the Hugo Awards, I said on a panel at the 2015 World Horror convention that I don’t read HP Lovecraft. Now, at a horror convention that comment fell like a pin dropped, everyone went silent. I went on to explain why I don’t think black horror or Sci-fi writers need to read Lovecraft to become good horror writers. There is a big difference between African American concepts of horror and that of HP Lovecraft. They differ in their interpretation of what death is, what are dead people and what should we do to the dead.

First, let’s define what HP Lovecraft horror is or better what Lovecraftian horror is. HP Lovecraft is now regarded as one of the most significant 20th-century authors in his genre. His style of horror is one of the most revered. Lovecraftian horror is a subgenre of horror fiction that emphasizes the cosmic horror of the unknown. Its basic tenants are Unanswered questions, Detachment from society and, Helplessness and hopelessness all with an Antiquarian writing style. While everything in horror isn’t exactly like Lovecraft, he is the poster child for Western horror. It was a bust of him which was used as the World Fantasy awards trophy from their inception through 2015.

Let me use my book It Happened on Negro Mountain to illustrate my hypothesis. In my story, Negro Mountain (a real place in Maryland) is protected by the spirit of an escaped African during the time of American slavery. The story follows a young girl who becomes emotionally terrorized by her father in the presence of her mother. As the father’s (a drug dealing gangster) threats and other activities become more prominent the ghost of the dead African comes to the aid of the little girl. The story follows as the ghost terrorizes and kills anyone who does bad things on the mountain.

My story while it sounds good, it is very unique among horror stories. What makes it so unique is that it is a good ghost story and still a scary horror story. You can count on one hand, the amount of good ghost stories that have achieved commercial success. In fact, I only know of two stories with good ghosts that have succeeded in popular culture. Casper the friendly and Ghost the movie with Whoopie Goldberg are the only two I know. That said, the difference between the elements in my story and that of a western horror story is the difference of cultural interpretation of death.

In western Lovecraft stories, concepts like ghosts and dead things are equivalent to evil and bad. Even the use of the word dead is synonymous to evil. However, in African American culture or its root African cultures dead and spirits are more good than bad. In African cultures when humans die they become ancestors. Africans view their ancestors as protectors and sources of aid and assistance. They are able to do both good and bad. This is a fundamental difference between horror interpretations.

As with all of Lovecraftian concepts they depend on this different interpretation. Instead of praise for the dead Lovecraftian stories depend on fear and hate of the dead. While African cultural stories seek help from their dead western Lovecraftian stories run from and fight their dead.

I wind this up by saying as we seek diversity in science fiction and horror we must not allow for variations to be blurred. If African American writers begin to study HP Lovecraft and start writing Lovecraftian stories then we are really missing out on all of what we have been asking for. With my book It Happened on Negro Mountain I have proven that good ghost stories can be just as scary. The motto of Negro Mountain is it is a place where bad things happen to bad people. I ask everyone to join me in enjoying this expanse of the beloved genre of horror and ask African American writers to keep away from HP Lovecraft.

Review: “The Tank” by Nicola Lombardi

Hello Addicts,

Imagine you live in a world where any crime, from murder to having a difference of political opinion, is cause enough for lifetime incarceration?  The governments which come to mind probably are Nazis, communists, and, to some people, the United States’ current political climate.   Dystopian stories are some of the scariest ones you can read.  True, there may not be blood, gore, monsters, or jump scares like the traditional horror stories utilize, but they deal with people as the monsters.  People so desperate for relief from red tape, corruption, and chaos that they are willing to give up freedom to feel safe and in control.

the-tank“The Tank” by Nicola Lombardi tackles the dystopian story very well and in a pretty believable manner.  It is the future, and a military coup has placed the New Moral Order (NMO) in charge.  When is person is convicted of a crime against the NMO, they are delivered to one of nine Tanks for storage.  The Tanks look fundamentally like grain silos, however there are no cells inside.  The “guests”, as the training manual refers to the prisoners, are tossed into the main cylinder of the building and left to suffocate and rot among the other prisoners.  Those who survive the landing struggle to survive as refuse until a quarterly Cleaning, which involves acid, occurs.

Giovanni Corte is named the Keeper of Tank 9, one of the more sought after positions.  For enough money to relocate to an island with no more worries, he sacrifices one year of his life to run the facility.  Spending a year with little to no human interaction, save for the brief daily prisoner deliveries, plays on a person’s mind.  Before long, paranoia begins to rear its ugly head, which only gets worse when he finds a diary possibly left for him by the previous Keeper.  In that are mentions of spirits roaming the halls in revenge for being tossed into the Tank.  Things only get worse for Giovanni as the story progresses.

I thought the story was well told and you got pulled into the story pretty well.  There are a few spots where you notice that the translation from Italian didn’t work out as smoothly, but overall, I really enjoyed this book.  If dystopian stories are your cup of tea, definitely check this one out.

Until next time, Addicts…

D.J. Pitsiladis